The UK Royal Navy formally commissioned its newest aircraft carrier, HMS Prince of Wales (R09), during a ceremony aboard the vessel at Her Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Portsmouth today, Dec. 10.
The commissioning ceremony was attended by the ship’s namesake Prince Charles, the current Prince of Wales. He was accompanied by his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who is also the ship’s lady sponsor.
Commanding Officer, Captain Darren Houston, read the commissioning warrant to the crew and guests gathered in the hangar which will soon house F-35 jets and a variety of helicopters. Among those watching were the First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, ambassadors from France and USA, and the commander of the US Sixth Fleet, Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti.
The iconic White Ensign then replaced the Blue Ensign which has flown since she left Rosyth in September for her initial sea trials. Leading Writer Megan Ryan (27, from Stoke-On-Trent) was granted the honour of raising the new ensign; and youngest sailor, Chef Seth Day (17), cut the commissioning cake with Liesl Houston, the Commanding Officer’s wife.
“The men and women of my Ship’s Company have demonstrated significant flexibility, patience and resilience. However, I also want to recognise the wider naval family for their support of our achievements, and I am so pleased that so many of our families and loved ones are able to share this special day with us.” Said Captain Houston.
About 550 VIP guests, 1,400 family and friends of the ship’s company, including guests with connections to the previous HMS Prince of Wales, a battleship sunk on that same date 78 years earlier by Japanese forces in the South China Sea, joined the crew for the ceremony.
HMS Prince of Wales is the second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier of the Royal Navy. She is the largest vessel to be operated by the service as she is slightly larger and heavier than her sister ship and lead ship of the class, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08).
The vessel is the seventh Royal Navy ship to have the name HMS Prince of Wales.
The 65,000 tonne aircraft carrier sailed into her home port of Portsmouth Naval Base for the first time on Nov. 16 followed by her sister ship HMS Queen Elizabeth on Dec. 4.
Unlike most large aircraft carriers, Queen Elizabeth-class carriers are not fitted with catapults and arrestor wires, and is instead designed to operate V/STOL (vertical and/or short take-off and landing) aircraft; the ship is currently planned to carry up to 40 F-35B Lightning II stealth multirole fighters and Merlin helicopters for airborne early warning (AEW) and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) missions.
Construction of the ship began in 2011 at Rosyth Dockyard and ended with the launch on 21 December 2017. She will be fully ready for front-line duties around the globe from 2023.